The small, seaside town of Brighton UK, some 50 miles south of London, has often been the destination for many a weary Londoner keen to take in its pebbled beaches, kitsch souvenir shops and traditional fish and chip suppers.
But today it wasn't sticks of sweet sugary ‘seaside rock' candy cane or brisk sea air which drew a host of electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles and their drivers to Brighton. It was the 2010 Bridgestone Eco-Tour rally, a modern reverse-route reenactment of the vintage vehicle run open to pre-1906 cars that has taken place between London and Brighton for more than 100 years.
With a green flag waved by Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvive, the convoy of vehicles formed a veritable who's-who of green cars, including the 2011 Mitsubishi i-Miev, 2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5, Mini-E and Think City. The rally also included a fully rally-prepared 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid, a modified 2008 Toyota Prius with noise-generator to alert pedestrians of its presence, and a hydrogen engined Ford Focus.
We joined the drivers, comprising celebrities and journalists including actor, podcaster and EV advocate Robert Llewellyn, Secretary for the Environment Chris Huhne M.P., and celebrated U.K. motoring journalist Quintin Wilson as the convoy of vehicles took in a route including city, highway and freeway driving.
Tesla, fresh from its $226 million IPO, brought three roadsters to the event, including an apple-green Tesla Roadster 2.5.We loved the updated exterior and centrally mounted 7-inch display, which looks perfectly at home in the dash. All three cars had driven down from London the night before, a trip the Teslas could easily make several times before requiring a recharge.
We were also able to get a sneak peak at the race prepared Think City EV Racer which we covered last week. Standing side-by side with a production Think City, there was very little to distinguish the two cars at first glance other than a slightly lower stance and racing seats.
2011 Think City EV Race spec
The same was not true for the Ginetta's occupants however, who had to endure an absence of opening windows and air conditioning. The G50 EV is the first and only car to drive along the Channel Tunnel under the English channel, a feat it accomplished last year.
Ginetta G50 EV
An example of Mitsubishi's 2011 i-Miev also made a double-trip, having driven down from London the night before and, fully charged by the morning, made the return trip back to Central London.
Unlike some EVs, we found it drove exactly the same with zero bars remaining on the fuel gauge as it did with a fully charged battery pack. While the car was empty on arrival, we understand the car was fully laden for the trip and both passengers and driver made use of the car's air conditioning, not to mention some spirited driving.
An example of BMW's Mini E was also in attendance and despite the company's decision to not produce a production version, the iconic all-electric Mini remained one of the most popular vehicles at the event.
While the Mini E is a test platform only, BMW executives reiterated the company's commitment to electric vehicles, telling us that its upcoming MegaCity would be engineered using the data BMW has gathered during the Mini E trials.
Duo of Teslas wait for the start of the 2010 Brigestone Eco-Rally
Strangely the two most important consumer electric vehicles of the year, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf, were missing from the event. While the 2011 Leaf would easily have made the trip from Brighton to London on a single charge, the 2011 Volt would either have had to recharge or make use of its on-board gasoline generator to travel the entire route.
EVs on the Motorway 2010 Eco-Rally.
By that time, several more production EVs will be publicly available--helping to prove, we hope, that electric cars can easily tread the same path that so many hundreds of gasoline cars have covered before.